This entire post is dedicated to one song off of the Gin Blossoms’ 1992 major label debut album New Miserable Experience. I can remember being captivated the very first time I heard it. I was 23 years old and my life hadn’t exactly gone in the direction I thought it was going to go. In high school I had dreamed of teaching English and writing books. It wasn’t long after I graduated that I started playing in a band and writing songs. I got married in 1991 and was playing in a band. I was still writing stories and thought that I would eventually publish a novel. By the time June 1993 rolled around (that’s when the single hit the airwaves) I was struggling with a growing alcohol problem. I had lost my job due in part to my excessive drinking. I was singing in a different band and I kept telling myself that we were going to “make it” and I would play music for a living. My marriage was strained and my drinking didn’t do anything to help it. My life was literally unraveling at the seams. That is where I was when I heard Hey Jealousy for the first time and it made an immediate impact on me.
The lyrics seemed to speak to my current situation and seemed to predict where my life was heading. The first verse goes like this.
Tell me do you think it’d be all right
If I could just crash here tonight
You can see I’m in no shape for driving
And anyway I’ve got no place to go
And you know it might not be that bad
You were the best I’d ever had
If I hadn’t blown the whole thing years ago
I might not be alone
I don’t know how many nights I sat up with a bottle in my hand listening to those lyrics and thinking that they had somehow been written about me. I was still married and had found another job (back at Pizza Inn) but I could see myself ending up as the narrator in the song. I wasn’t that far off. Two other lyrics really jumped out at me.
The past is gone but something might be found
To take its place… Hey jealousy
If you don’t expect too much from me
You might not be let down
I don’t know if a pop song had ever spoken to me like that before. There have been many since then but that was the first one where I sat down and thought, “Man, that’s about me.” The ironic thing is that in spite of the depressing sentiment expressed in the lyrics the music is upbeat and sunny. How could a song about such a sad situation be that happy? Like I said, it really left its mark on me. It’s no surprise that it was one of the very first songs I learned to play when I got a bass guitar for Christmas two years later. It is still one of my favorite songs even though my life has turned for the better over the last 23 years.
That is enough to make me stop and write about the song but there is more. I found out the story behind the song a few years after it was a hit. It was originally recorded in 1989 and included on the Gin Blossoms’ first album Dusted. It was written by Doug Hopkins, who was the guitarist for the band at that time. When the band signed with a major label they re-recorded a few of their older songs to include on their debut. Hey Jealously was one of them. Hopkins was then fired not long after the album was finished because his alcohol use had become a serious issue. Apparently he struggled with depression and self-medicated to deal with. One of the original lyrics to Hey Jealousy was:
You can trust me not to drink and not to sleep around
“Drink” was changed to “think” in the final version. Hopkins also wrote the Gin Blossoms’ hit Found Out About You. He was instrumental in the success that the band achieved in 1993 but watched from the outside. In December 1993, not long after receiving a Gold record for writing Hey Jealousy, he shot himself after sneaking out of a rehab facility. I mentioned that the songs is one of my favorites but it is also one of the saddest I have ever heard. It’s probably #2 right behind Hank Williams’ I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry. Unlike Hank’s classic, Hey Jealously sounds like a slice of sunny pop greatness but it goes so much deeper than the music. There is pain and honesty. There is the realization that things could have been different. It really is heartbreaking when I think about. It’s one of those “If Only” tales that are told way too many times. Only God knows what Hopkins could have achieved had he been able to defeat his inner demons. I am thankful that I was able to overcome mine and I continually pray for those who struggle.
Grace and peace.